The mission of the Denver Asset Building Coalition is to provide free tax preparation, financial education and other asset-building services in the Denver metro area to help low-income and underserved people become economically self-sufficient. We work with other nonprofits as well as civic, education and business partners to build a coalition of valuable financial services that have a profound effect on people's lives and on our community.
Founded in 2004, DABC provides free tax preparation services to low-income people. We serve more than 6,000 clients annually, bringing in over $8 million dollars in refunds, most of which is the Earned Income Credit (EIC); and saving people an estimated $1.3 million in paid preparer fees, keeping that money in the local economy and in the pockets of our clients.
We work with community partners throughout the multi-county area and break down barriers of service by going to where our clients are and where the needs in the community are greatest. We moved to Jefferson County in 2017, and though we already have established sites in Jeffco, we are working this summer to expand our services in the county, which a grant from the Community First Foundation would go a long ways in making possible.
Our goals are to give people consistent, accurate and knowledgeable service. Our volunteers are experienced tax professionals, and our staff and volunteers alike are very dedicated and passionate about our work. We go out of our way to tackle complicated, multi-year problems that no other group like ours will touch, and we are the only free tax site in the whole state that is open year-round. People come to see us from all over the state for that reason, and in 2016 we served people from more than 190 Colorado zip codes.
DABC serves individuals earning $35,000 or less, and families earning up to $55,000. During 2016-17 the average income of our clients is about $19,000 and nearly 80% make less than 50% of the area median income. Additionally, 40% of our clients are over 55; 25% speak a language other than English at home; 10% have disabilities; and nearly 55% identify as a racial minority, a majority of which are Spanish speakers. We provide translation services, and we provide services for people with ITINs, which are provided to non-resident aliens.
So far in 2017 we have set organizational records in serving 6,493 clients with a staff of just three people and an army of volunteers. This is the fourth year in a row that we have increased our capacity; we served just 3,000 people in 2013, and we have literally more than doubled that impact in just four years.
In February 2017 we helped a single mother with three children and an annual income of $6,000 who hadn't filed for a number of years out of a misunderstanding of her taxpayer rights. When she discovered DABC, we were at one of our valet sites and she approached us because she had some questions. We quickly discovered that she has not filed taxes for several years since her divorce, believing that since her ex-husband always finished his taxes before her and claimed their children that she had no recourse and no way of receiving that benefit herself. In addition, her ex-husband was perpetually delinquent in his child support, but every year was able to file before her and rob her of that opportunity herself.
When we realized she was the rightful claimant of her children, we told her she could still claim the children and get what she deserved even though her ex had already filed. We had her come back with her tax documents and we amended her returns going back three years. As a result we were able to claim for her nearly $16,000 in refunds she would have otherwise not known were hers. Before coming to DABC she believed that since she made so little, her chances of getting a refund were slim. In fact, when it came time to meet with us again to pick up her returns, so confident was she that she wasn't getting anything back that she delayed the meeting for several weeks. When she finally made it in, and when she was told she would receive more than twice as much as she earned all year, she almost fell out of her chair!
Not only did this client receive a life-altering refund through the benefit of the EITC, but her ex-husband was at this point very much on the hook for current and past child support that he owed her, which presumably was paid through garnishments from his paychecks from that point forward. This kind of situation happens alarmingly often, and it is in ways like this that DABC staff and volunteers aim to have a profound impact on our community.